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The Magazine Writer's Handbook

Franklynn Peterson and Judi Kesselman-Turkel

Publication Year: 2006

An expanded and updated revision of the already comprehensive first edition, The Magazine Writer’s Handbook offers insightful strategies addressing virtually every aspect of writing a magazine article for publication. Designed to be useful for both experienced magazine writers and those seeking to break into the magazine-writing industry, this handbook provides an exhaustive step-by-step approach taking the reader through every stage of the publication process. From targeting the right publication to constructing a professional article, and from dealing with legal considerations to working with editors, the revised edition of The Magazine Writer’s Handbook will be an indispensable addition to any writer’s desk. Extensively published in popular trade magazines, the authors dispense their knowledge in this handbook to help writers of all levels see their work published.

Published by: University of Wisconsin Press


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pp. vii-viii

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Preface to the Second Edition

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pp. ix-xi

This flattering letter arrived in our mail four years after Frank and I first wrote The Magazine Writers Handbook. The funny thing is, we wrote it because we needed a textbook. We'd been teaching courses and seminars in magazine writing, first in New York City and on Long Island and then with the outreach arm of the University of Wisconsin. We'd been looking for a good textbook for serious...

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Introduction: Three Keys to Successful Magazine Writing

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pp. 3-6

We're not promising you'll make your living at it. In the glory days of the mid-1990s, a survey found that full-time writers who worked at it at least forty hours a week averaged only $12,500 a year in income. Only 16 percent earned $30,000 a year or more. In 2002, according to the National Writer's Union, American freelance rates had declined by more than 50 percent since the 1960s.

PART I. The Magazine as Marketplace

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1. What a Magazine Really Is

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pp. 9-21

MAGAZINE EDITOR, AUTHOR AND FREELANCE WRITER C. P. (Ken) Gilmore had long wanted (like a lot of us) to break into Reader's Digest. It's always been one of the highest paying general-circulation magazines. "So," he told us, "I finally spent two weeks studying a year's worth of issues. By the time I was finished, I knew the editors' approach to ideas, subjects...

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2. How to Study Magazines as Markets

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pp. 22-37

BACK IN OUR EARLY DAYS AS MAGAZINE WRITERS, SOME ofour editors used to tell us, "You've gotta write for that Milwaukee beer truck driver," or "You've gotta write for that Milwaukee beer truck driver's wife." In those days, many editors decided who their readers were by the reader mail that rolled in. These days, editors refer with the same degree of passion to the...

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3. How to Pick the Right Magazines to Be Your Markets

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pp. 38-44

AUTHOR AND MAGAZINE WRITER SALLY WENDKOS OLDS has long been able to just about choose a magazine and land an assignment there. But it wasn't always that way. Sally says she got started "when I was working for a civil rights organization in Chicago. Civil rights was very new then, so I wrote up what we were doing, sent it to a church publication, and...

PART II. The Article as Marketable Property

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4. There's More to Writing Than Typing

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pp. 47-49

LIKE A MERRY-GO-ROUND, THE FIELD OF WRITING RARELY stands still. While Part I's guidelines for studying markets will always be true, the conclusions you reach today about a particular market may be outdated by next year. Learning everything that's important to become a successful magazine writer is like photographing all of a merry-go-round: There's no logical...

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5. Ten Standard Article Formats

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pp. 50-83

BEFORE YOU SUGGEST YOUR FIRST IDEA TO AN EDITOR, you have to know what format it needs and which elements and techniques that format requires. More than half a century ago, the late Beatrice Schapper, in her classic book How to Make Money Writing Magazine Articles, listed nineteen article formats linked to subject matter and another fifteen formats...

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6. The Four Elements of a Good Article

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pp. 84-98

IT MAY SEEM CONTRADICTORY THAT IN THIS BOOK FOR free spirits and idealists, we keep telling you, "Do this, don't do that." But the fact is, a set of classic article formats, elements and techniques has evolved over the years. Using them works to the advantage of everybody-writer, editor, reader. It makes writing-as well as reading-fun, fast and unfailing. It helps...

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7. The Three Standard Writing Techniques

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pp. 99-112

NOW THAT YOU KNOW THERE ARE ONLY FOUR ELEments to every article-lead, topic sentence, body and ending-we hope you are beginning to see the skeleton of every article you read (and write). To put some flesh on that skeleton, the magazine writer can use only three basic techniques, the same three available to nonfiction book authors, short-story...

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8. The Five Commandments No Pro Forgets

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pp. 113-121

NOVICES WHO THINK THE LOGIC OF PUTTING TOgether a complete magazine article is self-evident ought to read the Constitution of the United States of America. Its copywriters, the likes of Benjamin Franklin, Alexander Hamilton and Thomas Jefferson, didn't notice until it was already enacted that they'd left out all the important guarantees of personal...

PART III. How to Sell Your Article Ideas

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9. How to Write a Dynamite Query Letter

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pp. 125-139

IN CASE ONE OF OUR MORE IMPORTANT MESSAGES HAS somehow eluded you, we'll repeat it: If you want to be a magazine writer you have to face the fact that you are in the business of selling. The query letter (short for letter of inquiry) is the usual way in which authors sell their products- articles-to their customers-editors. Like the magazine article itself, the query letter has evolved its own standard...

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10. Sales Tactics

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pp. 140-153

SOME OF US CAN SELL SHOES OR VACUUM CLEANERS OR encyclopedias or cosmetics for a living. Others can't. But almost without exception, every full-time freelance magazine writer has to be a salesman for his article ideas or he won't be able to write for magazines. Back in the good old days, agents would handle magazine writers, making submissions to the likes of Life, Reader's Digest, Liberty, American Mercury...

PART IV. How to Write Your Article

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11. Research, Research, Research

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pp. 157-170

BEFORE READER'S DIGEST PUBLISHED AN ARTICLE MENtioning that George Washington stood six feet three and a half inches in his size thirteen boots, editorial researcher Nina Georges-Picot was assigned as its fact-checker. She wondered if old George really owned boots that big. But how to find out? First she pored over the New York Public Library's sixteen volumes...

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12. Power Interviewing

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pp. 171-189

THE INTERVIEW IS ONE OF THE WRITER'S MOST EFFECTIVE research techniques. Yet the rookie writer seldom interviews well or makes sharp use of the interview's results. Much of this ineffectiveness, we're convinced, comes from not appreciating the six different kinds of objective and subjective things to look for during even a short interview.

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13. Writing the First Draft

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pp. 190-203

WHEN ASKED AT A WRITERS' CONFERENCE WHAT SHE liked most about writing, Bonnie Remsberg quickly replied, "Having written." Those words have been said by many writers. There's no magic and very little glamour in writing an article, only hard work that demands unrelieved concentration. Few writers work in sunny picture-windowed offices, simply...

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14. Good Writing = Rewriting

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pp. 204-226

UNLESS YOU'RE A CLOSET SHAKESPEARE, YOUR WORDS will never fall onto the paper just right on your first try. There are too many words in the language, too many shades of meaning, too many opportunities to be just a bit more precise or effective. Your first try should never be shipped off to a waiting editor. Would-be writers who make that mistake become...

PART V. How to Be a Pro

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15. The Writer and the Law

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pp. 229-244

FROM THE CLASSES WE'VE TAUGHT, WORKSHOPS WE'VE given, and writers' conferences we've participated in, we know that yearling writers are full of questions about the law. Copyright, libel, taxes, privacy, slander, defamation, contracts-they want to know it all. They think that it's all vital to their careers as writers. When you get right down to it, though, the law seldom affects writers...

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16. Economics: The 3 Rs of Writing

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pp. 245-257

I T OUGHT TO BE OBVIOUS THAT IF YOU WANT TO BE A PROfessional magazine writer instead of a dilettante, economics will have to be on your mind as often as exposition, collecting money as often as quoting experts. But most beginners seem to have grown up on ancient movies in which well-groomed authors are wined and dined by fat cats or kept by sex-starved...


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pp. 259-260


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pp. 261-268

E-ISBN-13: 9780299214937
Print-ISBN-13: 9780299214944

Publication Year: 2006


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